Tradition and the Individual Italian American:

The Importance of Italian American Writing.

This article, written by Fred Gardaphe, appears on L’Italo-Americano.

As a community, Italian Americans are just beginning to understand the value of the written word.  For years publishers have been saying that the Italian American is not the target audience for most books–they don’t buy books because they don’t read.  However, there is something happening to Italian/American culture that is changing this stereotypic notion. This “something” emerges as Italian Americans transfer dependence on oral tradition to one of a written tradition.
I am often approached by people who have asked me to write their life-stories.  Why, all of a sudden, do these Italian/Americans begin searching for writers?  I believe this is caused by the disintegration of the traditional Italian/American community and the dissemination of Italian individuals into American society.  The life stories of our ancestors were part of the common knowledge of those who lived communal lives.

In small villages, where contact with others was almost daily, the topics of conversations could be expanded to include history.  And history, in terms of origin stories, was kept alive from generation to generation by memory and word of mouth.  The past was always a part of the present.  This method was sufficient as long as a family did not move away from its place of origins.  Even today, all you need to do to learn about your ancestral past is to spend some time in the piazze of the southern Italian villages amidst the old pensioners.  However things began to change even though Italian immigrants settled in areas called Little Italys.  Read more at L’Italo-Americano…

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